Clear was a good concept. Pay $199 for membership to quickly get through airport security. So what went wrong? (aside from not fixing issues highlighted by yours truly from a previous post). Below are the reasons:
1. Clear was trying to be something they are not. Clear wanted to participate in TSA-related activities but didn’t have the authority to do the job. Clear couldn’t get you pass security any faster than a traveler with airline status because Clear personnel couldn’t perform screening like a TSA agent. Clear only allowed you to skip the first TSA checkpoint - the TSA person matching your boarding pass against your driver license/ID. You still had to go through the same TSA scanners, take off your shoes, remove your belt, show liquids, etc. And you’d have to wait for the leisure travelers to get their acts together after the screening process to repack. So Clear probably saved you 2 minutes tops - not to mention you may lose a few minutes because the fingerprint authentication machine didn’t work properly.
2. Too much talk (marketing) and no execution. I have been getting spammed by Clear since its inception. I was also spammed as a Clear member to get other members to join Clear. I also see tons of Clear marketing people handing out flyers at airports where Clear operates (mostly JFK). What’s the point of handing out flyers at airports when most of the people there are either Clear customers already or will never pay $200 a year because they are vacationers. Spending all the money on ineffective marketing campaings as opposed to focusing on launching airports led to Clear’s failure (see my previous post regarding issues). All that money in the bank should have gone to launch LAX and other important airport hubs which can ultimately drive membership (aka: revenue). I had a Clear membership but couldn’t use it half the time because I am a frequent traveler out of one of the busiest airports in the world (LAX and ORD). What’s the benefit of being a Clear member when I can quickly get through Indianapolis airport security when there are no lines?
3. Poor leadership and management. What’s the point of gathering all my personal data when it is not necessary? Why do I see 4 to 8 people at Clear kiosks when the registration process and check-in process should be easy and straight forward? I found the registration process to be extremely cumbersome and unnecessary. Clear did not need my fingerprints to validate my identity. I believe two government issued IDs is sufficient proof. Investment in the fingerprint and eye scanning machines were a waste of shareholder funds. Furthermore, it took two people to register me at SFO.
Instead of wasting all the money and closing up shop now, Clear had a perfect chance to save itself. All Clear management had to do was read Triangle Trip and my open letter to the US Homeland Security Chief and TSA (see post). We sincerely hope the airlines are reading our posts as they are important feedback to the industry. I am sure Clear will also be a business case study at some B-school down the road… here’s a free research paper for the kiddies!